Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Caffeine-Induced Homage to Texas!

Well, I was off galavanting in the States last week, and desperately writing a paper the previous week, so my career as an aspiring blogger went onto the back burner. Still, the trip was wonderful. Texas was cold, but in the bright crisp way that is a major improvement on Belfast's alcholism-inducing darkness. And even the flights, despite my grouching, weren't so bad.

Mel had given me some Lyle Lovett to listen to: a spot of local colour. Not bad, I have to say. All the same, I spent most of my flights listening to the rather bizarre Joanna Newsom. Think Bride of Chucky gets into Tori Amos or Kate Bush and then robs a harp. Wonderful, bonkers stuff. And as for the lyrics...

I'll do a quick post on the paper I presented at a later stage. For the moment, here's a quick set of impressions re Arlington, the city between Dallas and Fort Worth where I was staying.

First of all I should say that the people were just lovely. Arlington is one of those places where cars stop to let you cross and where people in shops and restaurants are genuinely curious about where you're from.

But, as I mentioned to many people there, Arlington is, in some senses, the 'anti-Belfast.' The two are about the same size, population-wise but Arlington has absolutely no public transport system. It seems like a very interesting method for creating a base-line cost for living in the city (i.e., the price of a car). Moreover, there's no city centre to speak of. The city is really just an amalgamation of suburbs interspersed with shopping malls. I found that rather disturbing, I have to say. The reliance on cars (there were no footpaths that I saw) is all-consuming. People, I found, even drove from one part of a car park to another instread of walking between shops.

It strikes me that, while this is probably largely a result of bad (or no) city planning, a switch to good planning would not fix the problem. The habit of car use seems completely ingrained. So, pedestrianising part of the city might neither attract the pedestrians nor attract the businesses that attract the pedestrians.

All that said, any gripes one has about a town like that are more than made up for by the wonderful people. I've always held to the theory that depressing places make for depressed people, but last week's experience reveals how I had that the wrong way around. Wonderful people make for wonderful places!

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